The best time to comment on someone’s body image is umm … NEVER.
That’s it. That’s the time. However, we live in a society where people feel a little entitled to be able to do so. In fact, it’s so common for people to comment on the body image of others that it can either be blatantly out in the open or under the guise of concern from family members, doctors, strangers, and Lord knows who else.
If you’re the person who does this …. STOP IT! Especially if you’re feigning care.
Black Folks Have Poor Eating & Body Image Too!
Addressing the overall topic of mental health is still very taboo in Black communities. And, much like having conversations about one’s overall mental health is still pretty fresh in our communities, having conversations about the impact that body image concerns & disordered relationships with food have on the soul are pretty non-existent as well. In fact, many people still believe that these are White folks problems, when in fact Black women and men have eating disorders and body image concerns as well.
Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones But Words Are Sure To Hurt Me (If You’re Not Careful)
Black folks are notorious for using humor in ALL the situations, appropriate or not. I’m even guilty of using humor in the most inappropriate ways at times myself. Humor has been one of our most important saving graces, developed from years of turmoil experienced in this USofA. I ain’t mad at it. As I’ve gotten older, & since working with women who have significant body image issues, I have learned, however, that there is value of being mindful of the words being used to offer compliments or criticism to others. Be it now or later, hearing someone make disparaging comments about your body, in humor or in an effort to “show you they care”, can have long term effects.
Prime example. I have always been in a body crazy, curvy, wavy, not so itty bitty waisted body. One day, while in middle school, a guy walked by & mentioned how my bra was too big for my boobs in front of the whole class. Talk about somebody was SHAME. I’m almost 2 decades removed from middle school and can still remember what was said and how I felt. Now the emotions definitely aren’t the same now, and my confidence has grown significantly over time. It goes to show true what the late great Dr. Maya Angelou once said about people may not remember exactly what you said but they damn sure will remember how you make them feel.
And words, helpful or harmful, definitely lead to feels.
Maybe It’s More Than Meets the Eye
Lastly, we never truly know what people are going through that may be contributing to any change they experience, including with their bodies. Maybe its an underlying health condition, or a long history of body image struggles that may perpetuate other maladaptive behaviors; or, God thought to wrap them in different gift paper than you. YOU DON’T KNOW.
So, in the essence of truly learning to MYOB – MIND YOUR OWN BODY – let’s normalize not making comments on bodies that don’t belong to us. HMMMK!